Public sector employment, UK: September 2021

Estimates of people employed in the public and private sectors in the UK.

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Release date:
14 December 2021

Next release:
15 March 2022

1. Main points

  • Total public sector employment increased in September 2021 compared with the previous quarter and the previous year; the increase from a year ago is largely because of the ongoing response of the National Health Service (NHS) and the Civil Service to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • There were an estimated 5.70 million employees in the public sector for September 2021, which was 22,000 (0.4%) more than for June 2021 and 137,000 (2.5%) more than for September 2020.

  • Employment in central government was an estimated 3.50 million for September 2021, a rise of 22,000 (0.6%) compared with June 2021 and 146,000 (4.4%) compared with September 2020; the main contributors to this increase were the NHS, the Civil Service and local authority schools becoming academies.

  • The NHS employed an estimated 1.85 million people in September 2021, an increase of 2,000 (0.1%) compared with June 2021 and an increase of 73,000 (4.1%) compared with September 2020; the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic has driven the increase on the previous year.

  • There were 505,000 employees in the Civil Service for September 2021, up 7,000 (1.4%) compared with June 2021 and 42,000 (9.1%) more than for September 2020; the increase on the previous year was partly driven by the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Private sector employment was at an estimated 26.81 million for September 2021, an increase of 127,000 (0.5%) compared with June 2021 and 56,000 (0.2%) more than for September 2020.

  • Employment in local government was an estimated 2.01 million and little changed on the previous quarter and previous year; this was up 3,000 (0.1%) compared with June 2021 and up 1,000 (0.0%) compared with September 2020.

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2. Public sector employment data

Public sector employment
Dataset | Released 14 December 2021
Quarterly estimates of UK and regional public sector employment made up of central government (including Civil Service), local government and public corporations. The estimates also include a breakdown by industry.

Public sector employment time series
Dataset | Dataset ID: PSE | Released 14 December 2021
Seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted quarterly data time series of UK public sector employment, containing the latest estimates.

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3. Measuring the data


For this month's release, revisions have been made to the public sector employment estimates back to the start of the quarterly data time series in 1999. We also reviewed the seasonal adjustment process for the public sector employment data series.


View more information about how labour market sources have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

View a comparison of our labour market data sources and the main differences.

Impact on production of public sector employment estimates

The collection of the data contained in this release was unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic. Comments provided by survey respondents suggested the estimates were partly affected by coronavirus planning and response.


The main source of public sector employment (PSE) data is the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey, which is supplemented by data from external sources. Further information can be found in the PSE Quality and Methodology Information (QMI).

Full-time equivalents

While this bulletin focuses on headcount estimates of PSE, full-time equivalent estimates (based on the number of hours worked divided by the standard full-time hours) are available in the accompanying PSE datasets.

Seasonal adjustment

All PSE data time series in this release, with the exception of the regional series, are seasonally adjusted to aid interpretation. Relationships that hold in the unadjusted series do not necessarily hold for the seasonally adjusted series. For example, total PSE equals the total of all public sector industry estimates before seasonal adjustment, but this is not necessarily true after seasonal adjustment.

Reclassifications between the public and private sectors

Comparisons of public and private sector employment over time are complicated by several major reclassifications, where bodies employing large numbers of people have moved between the public and private sectors. We produce estimates of public and private sector employment excluding the effects of major reclassifications to help you understand underlying trends in employment. We publish these alongside estimates of total public and private sector employment in Tables 5, 6a and 7a of the PSE datasets.


More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Public sector employment QMI.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Neil Hedges
Telephone: +44 1633 456741